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  • Writer's pictureCRAIKER

Santa Claus Was Coming to Town, If He Could Get a Permit

Chris d Craiker

I was finishing my first cup of coffee when the phone rang. “Hey Chris, I’ve decided to move to Napa and build a little cottage for me and my wife! Can you do it? “

I was a little curious since the name didn’t come up, but the ZIP Code was 99705, North Pole, Alaska. So, I said, “Sure we can!  Who am I talking to? “

“Kris Kringle. Sometimes people call me, Santa, but KK will do for now. “

So, I had to cautiously indulge the caller. “Well, aren’t you supposed to be in the North Pole? Why would you want to move to Napa? “

“The cold is getting too much for me and the Missus and I’d rather be surrounded by grapes than snow drifts.“ Then he added, “Besides, we don’t have a factory with elves running around  anymore. Everything is made in China and shipped via Amazon.“

“The crew all moved to Hawaii, so the Missus and I are the only ones left. You might say we’re empty-nesters.”

It sounded like he was serious, so I had to add, “We certainly can help you. Can you give me the address and how would you like to remodel it? “

KK added, “I’ll give you the address, but keep it confidential. I simply want to build a simple cottage for our home. Nothing fancy. I will need a launchpad for my periodic sleigh rides around the country with the reindeer. We’re down to four now. They were costing us a fortune. And Rudolph now has a steady job in Hollywood, so I don’t see him very often. Anyway, we’ll need a barn for the four. And an ADU for my reindeer manager.” I told KK, “Why don’t we go over to the planning and building departments together and see what we have to do”

“You bet!“

The next morning, KK was at my Olive Orchard Office, O O O. KK liked that, saying it’s just like his favorite call out, “Ho, Ho,Ho!”. We left for downtown, taking an hour to go two miles. The planning staff planner was very helpful.

“Well, we’ll certainly will do our best to fast-track you. We might be able to get you in by Christmas….. 2026, if we get some clearance. Now, you’re going to need a Napa County Airport Approval, and they may require an EIR, for the launch pad. We don’t want your sleigh rides obstructing any of our celebrity jet-setters making their periodic wine tasting tours.”

She added, “Now, the barn might be another matter. You’ll have to go to the Health Department for maintaining animals larger than racoons or squirrels on your property. It will need to drain into a grease trap and provide cleanup by a certified reindeer manure remover”.

”The ADU would  be easy, except you’re in a water restricted area and can only have a Guest House. It’s about the same, but you can’t have a kitchen, so your reindeer manager will have to have Door Dash deliver meals. That will require a Traffic Report. “

“Since the launch pad will be visible from the street, you’ll need a Design Review Approval. That will go to the historical landmarks group and planning commission. The good news is you’ll be fine if you plant 20 trees in the front yard to hide the building and paint the exterior with Kelly Moore “Gently Invisible“. We have a source for that.

After that head-spinning encounter, and picking up 12 applications and the latest Zoning documents, we went over to the building department. The staff there was also friendly, courteous and helpful…… Sorta’.

“We’re more than happy to fast track you under a special Use Permit for Underserved Newcomers to Napa Valley. Anybody that can afford to move to Napa is welcomed. However, you will have to build the cottage to the latest California Energy Standard which are changing in 2024. As you know, the State is going all electric in the next few years, starting with cracking down on gas powered heating and transportation.”

“To start with, you’ll have to encase the entire house in 12’ thick insulation blankets and include all new windows and doors with high energy efficient windows and doors with 1/4 of the previous glass area. You have to eliminate half the windows you wanted“

KK was astounded. “I never had to do that in Alaska, which is- the last I heard- a little bit colder than Napa…… Well, marginally now. “

The staff became very stern at this point. “In Alaska, you’re using gas powered heating and homes were built a little sturdier than our hundred-year-old rickety Victorians. “

“Now about the reindeer…. California is going all electric, so you need to retire them within three years and go to all electric transportation. We can get you a deal with a San Francisco company called ‘Cruise’ for self-driving vehicles “

“Finally, we’d like to talk to you about all those Christmas lights. You will have an energy budget of 15 amps, about as much as hairdryer, and overhead glare is not allowed because of incoming jet planes. Your scheduled lighting will be from 5-8 PM and never on Friday nights.“

KK and I left the building department with another 15 building permit applications, the latest, “How to Interpret the California Building Code Without Really Trying“ and “California Building Codes for Dummies “.

We then visited the only General Contractor that returned my call. Freddy of ”Last Chance“ construction called me and informed me he wouldn’t meet with us unless we agreed to his minimum construction cost of $600 per square foot, which for his desired 1500 square footage cottage would be about $900,000, not including municipal fees which would be about $150,000. Freddy noted it would be worth at least $2,000,000 if he wanted to sell it. People will line up for that!

KK turned to me and said, “you know, I think I’ll stay in Alaska. It’s safer, taxes are less, and roads less congested. “

I had to tell KK, “You know, I think I might join you. Alaska will be warmer than California in the next few years. See ya’ soon! “

Chris d Craiker, AIA/NCARB may be saying ‘Aloha’ and ‘Mahalo’ in Alaska soon.

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